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In recognition of Guyana’s remarkable economic and social growth, evidenced by the more than 56% GDP growth in 2022, and recognition of the growing global stature of President Irfaan Ali, Al Jazeera conducted a sit-down interview with President Irfaan Ali last week. In an article that appeared in The Village Voice, a publication linked to the PNC, Guyana’s former Ambassador to Kuwait tried to dispute some of the points raised by President Ali in the interview. He accused the President of presenting half-truths. The whole article by Dr Shamir Ally is full of misrepresentations and falsehoods.
The Ministry of Health highlights some of Dr Ally’s misrepresentations and falsehoods in this statement relating to health in Guyana. The former Ambassador to Kuwait, taking his cue from the new PNC/R leader, claimed that the President misrepresented the support given to dialysis patients. Dr Ally bemoaned the fact that the Ministry of Health currently provides an annual grant of $600,000 ($US3,000) for every patient on dialysis. He questioned the usefulness of this grant because he claimed that a patient on dialysis needs about $1.8M annually. Up front, let us set the record straight – The PPP/C government is providing a dialysis grant to all patients on dialysis, and the former APNU/AFC government which Dr Ali supported provided zero-dialysis support.
Our medical treatment records showed that under the APNU/AFC, just 64 persons received a mere $360,000 one-off grant, while under the PPP/C lead administration, 327 persons benefited from the $600,000 grant in 2022. This amounted to about $200M in 2022. This $600,000 annual grant will be rolled out again this year, 2023 to benefit those in need of dialysis.
Since the grant was introduced, more patients are now able to access dialysis in the country. Now patients in Region 10 can access treatment at the Linden Hospital Complex while those in Regions 6 and 5 can access dialysis at the New Amsterdam Regional Hospital.
In November 2022 a Dialysis Centre in Pomeroon-Supenaam was commissioned and for the first time, patients in Region 2 can access dialysis at the Suddie Regional Hospital. While it is true that some patients require more than $600,000 annually, the grant is a life-changer for the families that have benefitted. But APNU/AFC, Dr Shamir Ally’s political home, was the government between 2015 and 2020. They did not provide $600,000 per dialysis patient. Very few patients were able to access any funding for medical services from the government. It is shamelessness on the part of Dr Ally to criticise the dialysis grant of $600,000 when the government that he was a staunch supporter of provided none at all. But even as Dr Ally criticised the dialysis grant, the MOH expects that in 2023, there likely would be more than 400 beneficiaries, raising the annual grant to more than $300M.
In addition, Guyana’s health care is working to ensure that as many of the patients who must receive chronic treatment can also benefit from kidney transplants. Working with Guyana’s transplant team and with international partners, Guyana is hoping to triple the number of kidney transplants done in Guyana this year.
It is true that Guyana received a field hospital to deal with COVID-19 patients. But former Ambassador Ally claimed that the coalition government negotiated the deal with Qatar. This is totally false.
Guyana received the hospital following discussions between President Ali and the Emir of Qatar, His Royal Highness, Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, during his visit to Guyana in November 2020.
By then, while the field hospital was a useful addition to the COVID-19 response, the Government of Guyana under President Ali had also taken the debacle of the Ocean View Hotel building that the coalition spent more than $2B on re-purposing, and transformed it into an international-quality Infectious Disease Hospital, which at the height of the COVID-19 crisis housed more than 120 patients, with more than 50 on ventilator-supported ICU beds. Dr Shamir Ally failed to state the facts. The Infectious Disease Hospital that the PPP took over was simply a shell, with no beds, no oxygen supply, with simply nothing in it.
By August 2020, with COVID-19 transmitted without any kind of sensible response from the APNU/AFC government, Guyana’s capacity for testing was virtually non-existent. On August 2, 2020, the day when President Ali became President, Guyana was only conducting about 5 tests per day, there was a total of 12 ICU beds with ventilator support in the public health sector, with only seven at the GPHC, there was no quarantine centre that was adequately developed with Infection Prevention Control (IPC) systems in place. By October 2020, a mere two months after, Guyana’s capacity for testing was lifted to more than 2000 tests per day, Guyana’s ICU with ventilator-supported beds increased to more than 75, with the Infectious Disease Hospital providing more than 50 of those beds and there were IPC-supported quarantine centres in all ten regions.
Dr Ally disgraced himself and insulted the intelligence of the Guyanese people when he referred to the shortages of medicines in the public sector. Pharmaceutical supply in the health sector was an unmitigated disaster between 2015 and 2020, not only because of the unconscionable shortages, but also the corruption which has been well-documented. Even ministers of the APNU/AFC government were forced to admit this on several occasions when confronted with the reality of medicine shortages between 2015 and 2020. By August 2020, the MOH’s capacity to supply medicines had fallen to under 20%. Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 has caused in the global medicine supply since early 2020, the MOH has been able to raise supplies to almost 90%, with only sporadic shortages because of late deliveries from global suppliers.
Dr Ally must have been speaking of the situation before August 2020 when he alleged that hospitals today are plagued with bed shortages. In August 2020, bed utilization capacity in more than 30 of the 46 wards at GPHC was over 100%, meaning more than two persons in a bed. In addition, almost 90% of the beds in the hospitals prior to August 2020 were in an ugly dilapidated state. Since August 2020, more beds have been added to hospitals in all public hospitals across Guyana. In addition, more than 40% of all the old beds have been replaced by new ones. The chronic problem of two pregnant women in a bed at GPHC has now been eliminated.
When the former ambassador spoke of avoidable deaths, he failed to speak of the fact that Guyana made no progress in reducing maternal and child mortalities between 2015 and 2020. While maternal and child death mortalities remain high in Guyana, significant progress was made in 2022. While fifteen pregnant women died in 2022, this was significantly less than the 26 that died in 2019. Further, the former ambassador did not mention that of the 15 that died in 2022, at least nine died from non-pregnancy-related problems, such as COVID-19 and vehicular accidents. Even one is too many, but under the PPP we continue to make progress in reducing avoidable deaths.
Clearly, Dr Shamir Ally is following in the footsteps of his leaders from the PNC and the AFC. Instead of doing their homework, they make up fake stories to oppose the PPP and President Irfaan Ali. The fact is that the PPP inherited a health sector that was in chaos and that had suffered serious regression, having lost much of the gains made before 2015. Since August 2020, major transformations have been taking place across the sector. By 2025, there will be about 15 new hospitals in Guyana and each hospital would have been upgraded. CT would become common in all ten regions of Guyana. Every hospital would have digital x-rays. Telemedicine would be providing higher-level health care for people living in remote areas. Cardiac interventions would be available routinely at GPHC and in New Amsterdam. Oncology service would be in place. Health is being transformed, even as we try to address the challenges that every country must face.
The MOH, therefore, totally rejects Dr Shamir Ally’s falsehoods and misrepresentations as presented by the Village Voice. We commend President Irfaan Ali for highlighting the significant upgrading of the health sector in Guyana during his Al Jazeera interview.
Public Relations/Health Promotion Unit
Ministry of Health
Editor’s Note: It is disappointing, to say the least, a tax-funded state agency would seek to engage in partisan political accusation. Village Voice is linked to the people of Guyana, home and in the diaspora, and provides coverage on issues that matter to the people and would improve their standard of living. Consequently, where the Government and Opposition form part of the equation they will be covered.
On the matter of Dr. Ally, he presented his arguments and provided the evidence. Readers are invited to read them here https://villagevoicenews.com/2023/01/03/president-alis-half-truths-to-al-jazeera-talk-to-al-jazeera-part-1-of-2/?fbclid=IwAR1GwYeMKK4OO5rZDeuZqy5yre-eJHfl4QlxeyCAbCmp_qKqbwhN9inysjI